Speaking to Express.co.uk philosopher David Pearce, co-founder of the World Transhumanist Association, argued humans can “phase out suffering” for humans and other animals. The World Transhumanist Association, since renamed Humanity+, is the main international body that promotes transhumanist ideas worldwide.
Transhumanists believe emerging technology can and should be used to artificially enhance human capabilities.
They argue advances in fields like artificial intelligence, robotics and gene editing have the potential to revolutionise how humans, and potentially other animals, live their lives.
The British writer commented: “The strand of transhumanism I am most interested in is this idea we can use biotechnology to phase out suffering via genetic engineering, not just in humans but also in non-human animals.
“Something like cultured meat, for example, twenty years ago was science fiction whereas now we’re seeing the first products.”
Currently transhumanist Zoltan Istvan is challenging President Donald Trump for the 2020 Republican Presidential nomination.
Transhumanists believe technology can and should be used to augment human abilities
David Pearce co-founded the World Transhumanist Association in 1998
The Transhumanist Party UK represents the movement politically in Britain.
Mr Pearce claimed the transhumanist movement has changed radically since he co-founded the World Transhumanist Association in 1998 with Nick Boston.
He explained: “Back in 1998 the human genome hadn’t been decoded, most talk of super intelligence was of people taking smart drugs and radical life extension was still firmly in the realm of crank ally.
“The purely technical obstacles to transhumanism I’d say are diminishing.
“We are already seeing the first very controversial genome-edited babies in China.
“The New Yorker’s Magazine’s headline for January was ‘A World Without Pain’.
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“Twenty years ago that would seem like utopian dreaming.”
According to his website Mr Istvan in part because the transhumanist movement is being “overrun by socialists and a politically correct culture devoid of risk and objectivity”.
Mr Pearce agreed the centre of gravity within transhumanism has changed politically.
He asserted: “Back in 1998 when Nick [Bostrom] approached me about the possibility of setting up the World Transhumanist Association I associated transhumanism exclusively with free market fundamentalism.
“There are certainly political tensions between what may very crudely be called ‘left’ and ‘right’ within the transhumanist movement.
“I think Zoltan is extremely shrewd. The idea a few years ago that transhumanism could ever appeal to Republicans is just fantastical.”
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Mr Pearce argued the transhumanist movement will have to overcome “tremendous status quo bias”.
Transhumanists often use the term ‘bio-conservative’ to criticise their opponents.
The philosopher commented: “Even though it is now possible in principle to replace today’s genetic crackshoot with designer babies there is tremendous status quo bias and most people will intend to continue having babies naturally.
“And if one talks about genome editing so that people can have naturally high hedonic set points, high pain thresholds, so babies have a naturally high quality of life this conjures up images sadly of coercive eugenics and after the 20th century most people are understandably extremely cautious.
“All babies born today are unique genetic experiments and if one does think it’s ethnically justifiable to bring new sentient life into the world I think one has an obligation to load the genetic dice; and already one can see particular genes that predispose towards being temperamentally optimistic, cheerful, low sensitivity to pain.
“This could radically improve the quality of life of our children and grandchildren.”
Whilst transhumanists vary widely on the timescale, nearly all believe humanity is on the verge of an unprecedented technological revolution.
Mr Pearce argued the future of world politics will depend to a large extent on whether the technologies transhumanists advocate are dominated by liberal-democratic states or their authoritarian rivals, such as China.
He stated: “It’s going to make a big difference whether it is China driving transhumanist technologies or the United States.
“The Chinese haven’t got the same historical memories as we’ve got in the west of eugenics
and it may well be that they decide ask ‘what is wrong with creating smarter babies?’
“My worry would be more that instead of focusing on the wellbeing of individuals it would be some
kind of collective attempt to increase intelligence.
“I’ve no objection per say to creating babies that are extremely intelligent, I think the risk however is that one will have an extremely narrowly defined conception of intelligence.”
Many transhumanists argue alterations to human biology could be justified as evolution produced us to live in very different societies to the ones we currently inhabit, where tribal and violent impulses were essential to survival.
Presidential campaign poster for Zoltan Istvan
Mr Pearce shares concerns about human’s biological makeup and the impact it could have on our species.
He commented: “Evolution designed us so, for example, male human primates form coalitions with each other and wage war against other coalitions of human primates and we can see this even today.
“Whether we will have time to reengineer ourselves so we are essentially no longer killer apes I don’t know.
“As more and more countries acquire WMDs I sadly think this century we are quite likely to see catastrophic nuclear war.
“I feel we are sleepwalking our way towards the abyss.
“There are horrendous risks to having nuclear armed states at the mercy of unstable human male primates.”